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Despite obstructionist claims, HARBORcenter will be an asset

Guest submission by Chris Ostrander, Two In The Box

You simply cannot have nice things if you live in Buffalo. I’ve only been around for 27 years and my interest in downtown development is far shorter than that. But I’ve seen enough to know that we simply cannot have nice things.

After winning a RFP process that only had two submissions, the Buffalo Sabres are preparing to break ground on a massive new development that will bring a brand-new hotel, twin rink and parking facility to the foot of the city’s new waterfront district alongside the preexisting arena district.

Multiple entrances and attractions certainly add up to a barrier, no?

Multiple entrances and attractions certainly add up to a barrier, no?

Apparently this just isn’t historic enough for some people. Maybe Clinton DeWitt tossed a handkerchief out on this site when he wedded the waters or maybe a member of the Cotter family placed their outhouse on the northeast corner of the Webster Block back in 1847. Who knows? All that matters is protecting the historic integrity of the city and obstructing any project that looks, smells or sounds progressive.Tim Tielman’s complaints about the HARBORcenter project aren’t just obnoxious – as is common practice for him – they’re downright maniacal. To say that this dynamic project designed to draw people to the center of Buffalo’s newest entertainment district on a year-round basis is going to cut the city off from the waterfront is asinine. The gall of constructing a multi-level parking structure that can house a vast majority of Thursday at the Harbor fans along with those patronizing the ground floor retail of this building is beyond ignorant. How could the Sabres and city perpetuate such nonsense?

Just imagine what this lot could be if Tielman and his placemaking, crowdsourced gang of nincompoops got their hands on it. We could celebrate with temporary tents, functional lawns and deck chairs as far as the eye could see.

HARBORcenter isn’t just a hockey complex. It is a multifaceted addition to a burgeoning portion of the city. If anything, Tielman is completely contradicting the nature and scope of this very project.

A few years back, when another obstructionist clown put the brakes on a proposed parking facility near Marine Drive, Canalside and the greater arena district lost out on what would have been a valuable resource. Now the Sabres have come to the table with a dressed up version of a parking ramp that will not only service First Niagara Center patrons, but those who are heading down to the water on a warm summer night.

For a district that woefully lacks parking – let alone real things to do – Canalside can only benefit from the draw that this building will create. Between the retail and hotel element alone, this will bring people to the foot of Canalside, at the very least on a daily basis. Should the ECHDC begin to find tenants to fill their empty parcels, they will most definitely benefit from an anchor such as HARBORcetner right nearby.

The one issue with HARBORcenter is that the main sports bar will face Washington St. rather than the harbor. Ideally, having access to the restaurant from Perry and Main would be ideal. This would – as has been pointed out by many – provide a view (obstructed or not) of Canalside while also giving fans a quick trot across the street after arena events.

If it weren’t too late, it would be worthwhile for the Sabres to rethink that portion of the plans. However, providing the primary entrance for all retail locations along the side fronting Canalside isn’t a horrible plan either. Not only does that put the storefronts smack in the face of those visiting Canalside, it is also a slight taunt as to what that particular neighborhood still lacks: restaurants, stores and things to do.

To reiterate the point once again, this project will not add to the separation of the waterfront it will add to it. This is going to be a year-round draw for people. Whether they’re hockey fans, hockey players, hockey parents, hotel patrons or those looking to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping; these people will be able to begin their trip at HABORcenter and make their decision to venture to the casino Cobblestone parking District, Canalside or back towards downtown.

Hell, Canisius is more than likely going to become an anchor tenant for the rinks. Playing home games on the Metro Line certainly seems like a great way to bring people to this area as opposed to keeping them away. That would have never happened without HARBORcenter.

This is not an isolated project or barrier like the Skyway. This is a draw. Albeit it is a big-box style attraction that makes preservation junkies quake in their boots. Combine that with the sports element and some of the pitchfork mob that Tielman will be fighting a doubly evil plan (in their opinion).

After a half dozen sets of plans, renderings and dreams for Canalside, we as a community are still waiting for the canal portion to open. Perhaps when my first born takes the reigns for 2ITB he will be parading the virtues of what Canalside has become under the guidance of the ECHDC. Maybe at that time HARBORcenter will be the primary hub of action is what is growing to be a widespread entertainment district.

Of course, that would mean that certain obstructionists need to get their facts straight.


  • I’m ambivalent about this project, but I’d probably be more amenable to the whole idea if they (and the writer) didn’t insist on capitalizing every letter in HARBOR in the name. It’s dumb.

    Further, I know that the writer is a Sabres cheerleader by trade, but just looking at the picture attached to this post shows exactly what the concern is. You can’t even tell that there is a HARBOR anywhere near the building. I’m not sure what the writer’s beef is with Tielman, but it seems to go beyond a general disagreement. What progressive projects are you talking about that Tielman opposes? Tearing down buildings that can be used? Building a big Duty Free shop on the West Side? Is HARBOR CENTER your idea of a progressive project? A hotel and a parking garage? Stop me if I’m wrong, but I think we have a bunch of both of those. In fact, I think we have a bunch of both of those downtown. Maybe the dual ice rinks is the progressive part. How many times have you found yourself saying “Well I WOULD go downtown, if only there was an ice rink”? 

    I like the Sabres too. But just because they’re affiliated with a project doesn’t make it the best thing since Jane Jacobs.

    Also, the sentence: “To reiterate the point once again, this project will not add to the separation of the waterfront it will add to it” doesn’t make any sense.

  • Carl Gorney

     Odds are, HarborCenter won’t even be the projects’s final name-so why are we getting worked up over the name or the fact that half of the name is capitalized? Plus, let’s not forget that the project has 2 rinks attached to it-the possibility exists that the Jr. Sabres might at long last get a permanent home, and the other rink could be used as a practice facility. (Columbus has a practice rink built into their arena.)

  • Chris Ostrander you sure do like to make personal attacks in advance of your opinions. So in addition to being in favor of the HARBOURcentre, you find Tim Tielman to be obnoxious, maniacal, ignorant, a preservation junkie, an obstructionist, and a nincompoop. Well I’m convinced of the merits of the project!
    I don’t think it is fair to label someone an obstructionist when they prepare an alternative plan.    

    Here are some questions to ask about the general construction binge in Buffalo, including the HARBOURcenter project. What is the justification for these new hotels, restaurants, and shopping attractions when our population continues to shrink? The City of Buffalo lost around 10 percent of its population from 2000-2010. Erie County did as well. Without a growing population to support these businesses, they will just compete, (likely out compete because they are new) with our existing hotels and restaurants leading to other businesses to fail and more buildings to become abandoned.

    Its cool though. At least we will get to “have nice things” finally: a parking ramp and a hotel downtown.

    • Welll your population will continue to shrink if there is nothing to draw people to the city (or suburbs for that matter). The same goes for tourism. If there isn’t anything that truly draws people in, then what’s the point?

      To use the Sabres as a primary example, the work they’ve been championing lately is laying ground work to potentially lure such events as the NHL All-Star Game, Draft or maybe even a winter classic. Same goes for NCAA basketball and hockey. Not that sporting events are the end-all-be-all but they’re showcase events that inject value into the cities they visit. The NCAA tournaments are a perfect example of this. This project, along with many of the other revitalization projects around Buffalo are all (hopefully) going to add up to the greater whole and create an attractive city where you can live/work/play.

      As for my opinons on TT, I’m not going to apologize for them. Forgive me for not keeping an official ledger but more often than not you find him trying to get his hands on projects slated for the city and ultimately derailing impressive, dynamic projects for garbage like the alternative plan he rolled out. And I was overly incendiary on purpose. And I DO think it’s fair to label him as an obstructionist when he is trying to halt a planned and financed project in the final stages of planning and approval. In fact, that’s about as textbook as you get, no?

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see this fulyl completed and functional long before any tangible additions are made to Canalside; an area that Tielman has been plenty involved with obstructing, planning, advancing, or ruining. It all depends on how you’re looking at it.

      • Carl Gorney

        Chris: To your point…the ONLY thing you mention that hasn’t come to Buffalo is the NHL All Star Game. The NCAA tourney comes here every few years(and will do so again in 2014), the NCAA Frozen Four came in 2003, and let’s not forget the World Junior Championships in 2010-11.

      • Correct. And I assume you can expect an ASG in the near future along with the return of at least one other major event. Add in that Canisius will likely call this home along with the Jr. Sabres. Considering the level of activity this will draw, there is no reason to think that Canalside and the surrounding area will prosper due to this development.

  • http://www.fixbuffalo.blogspot.com/2013/02/im-steel-standing-in-court-part-i.html

    Hey Chris, the commenter below is the same guy who advocates massive investment into a crumbling office building in the middle of an industrial wasteland, for something like hotel, restaurant and shopping attractions. Can anyone say “urban festival marketplace” for the toppling tin shack on Ohio Street. I guess the justification exists for these properties for huge spending in this supposed dying city that continues to shrink. 

    There is a tiny but very vocal, and very pushy, minority who embrace the 1944 Dresden look for our city.

    Check out Chris Schmidt’s article on Buffalo Rising. Even that eclectic group of commenters are for the most part deriding Tim Tielman’s ridiculous proposal.

    Game. Set. Match. See you at the groundbreaking, bro!

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Chris, there would be no Canalside, or Larkinville if not for Tim Tielman. One of Tim’s big gripes is that HARBORcenter will serve to block off the Cobblestone District from the waterfront.

    You have to admit building over Perry Street is not a great idea.

    Tim Tielman is a smart guy, and a real Buffalo booster. There is absolutely nothing “obstructionist” about him.